November 11, 2008


Here's a quick flip through my photo album, catching up on events since I last blogged.


Final class sessions for the Nihon Vogue class Year 1 that I was in.


My classmates. Jean Wong, our teacher, is center front.

As I've discussed in previous entries, the class is rigorous. The assignments come thick and fast and it is hard to stay on top of them. Of the 15 people in the class, 6 finished and turned in their assignments and earned their certificates:


You'll notice that the certificates are not only suitable for framing, they are in Japanese. (The photo shows only 5 people. Melinda finished her final project sweater at the moment the bell rang, so to speak -- just at the closing minute of the last day of class.)

The rest of us, including yours truly, will finish our assignments and earn our certificates later....

For the last class session, we had a celebration dinner and my classmates and I set out our finished sweaters for display. We were moving around tables and chairs and arranging and re-arranging things, and amidst all this hustle and bustle, Jean found a quiet spot to knit:


I can't say enough how impressive some of my classmates's projects were! I am indebted to several of them, particularly Arlene and Andrea, for giving me guidance after I'd missed class sessions last March and was really feeling lost.


Spent a couple of long weekends at our cabin in the San Juans. We've been going to this place for about eighteen years, and always had to carry in our own water, which we did in our 5-gallon "earthquake water" containers. Scott put in water tanks this year:


The photo above shows our friend Derek working with the hose. You see one water tank in the foreground, and the little shed behind holds a water filtration system.

And then the Mud Puppy came and visited us:


The Mud Puppy, himself:


(I wish our dog Lady was this calm on our boat.)


The Mud Puppy is a barge that brought the water truck to deliver water to us. I must have been really bored that weekend because I took a ton of photos of this oh-so-exciting event! It is worthy of remark because two years ago you could not have driven a vehicle to our cabin, but the dirt footpath has been widened and we've had several vehicles on the island.


Gravity will allow the water to flow to the cabin, so the water tanks are on top of a hill. After several attempts at backing up the dirt path, the driver got close enough that a hose could be run from the truck's tank to our water tanks.



Obligatory photo of Shetland sheep grazing.


I went to Scotland with Sandy. I joined her for a week for what was the tail end of a three-week trip to Europe for her. Sandy is another Fair Isle fanatic -- she is reponsible for teaching me (among many, many other knitters in the Pacific Northwest) how to do Fair Isle knitting. In Shetland we rented a small car and I let Sandy have the thrill of driving on the wrong side of the road. (I screamed only once.)

I was surprised at the number of things to see and do on Shetland. Yes, we visited the Jamieson's mill, and had a very thorough tour of the place, from where the fleece arrive in bales at the door, through being washed, dyed, carded, spun, balled.

Yes, we visited Wilma Malcomson's shop, Shetland Designer. (I bought some fingerless gloves, which I figured I could squeeze into my suitcase, having brought only carry-on luggage.) We spent a good couple of hours visiting with Wilma, and when she stepped away to help other customers, I enjoyed chatting with her 13-year-old granddaughter who happened to be there. I asked the granddaughter to show me her favorite colorway out of all of the designs in the shop -- without hesitation, she picked a purple-and-blue one. Had my 15-year-old daughter Allegra been there, I know that would have been her choice, too. No cultural difference between the American girl or the Scottish -- girls just have to have purple! I asked the granddaughter about her schooling. The Shetland kids are taught to knit in primary school. The teacher is on a rotation -- goes to a different school each day of the week, and while at that day's school, teaches the different classes in turn. I turned to Sandy and said that would be an excellent job to have. (Sandy didn't find it quite so appealing, but for me, having been a schoolteacher, that job seems much more romantic than the drudgery of teaching high school English.) The granddaughter told us that, after primary school, it is up to the students whether they want to continue with knitting lessons in school; other things are offered. The granddaughter is continuing with knitting, and her current project for school was a pair of Fair Isle gloves. I asked what color, and she smiled and blushed and said, that blue-and-purple one.

Another afternoon we spent at the Shetland Museum, where Sandy knew the Curator. (The Curator was originally from the Seattle area, an early member of the Seattle Knitters Guild; she's lived on Shetland for about the past 10 years.) We spent an afternoon with the Curator (she was the person who finally clarified for us whether the posted speed limit signs on the roads were in kilometers or miles; the locals go barrelling along the roads so fast we had not a clue what the speed limit signs were supposed to mean). She showed us the knitting in the exhibits; she had been responsible for putting the exhibits together and talked to us about how the pieces were sewn onto the mannequins.


This display shows "Shetland Knitting through the Decades." You'll notice the very 1970s-looking, wavy-striped sweater in the very front.

I hardly ever tell anyone this, but ever since I took Janine's Fair Isle class in May of 2007 I have had in the back of my mind a certain project. The premise of it goes like this: If you are really going to know how colors work together in Fair Isle knitting, you really should try every possible combination of a given color with all other colors. Thanks to Janine's method of speed swatching, I can easily envision this task. I would just work down the color card, knitting up one giant swatch that need be only, say, 20 stitches wide, and each color grouping only, say, 10 rows tall. Here would be Peach combined with Amber for ten rows, with Rust, with Ginger, with Crimson, and so on through the color card until I'd reached the end with Peach and Sand. Then to pick up Amber and run through every possible permutation with it. Of course some of those color combinations would be ghastly -- but I am willing to bet that there would also be some delightful surprises in there, too. Of course this project of swatching would take countless hours (probably years, in my case), and the finished swatch would be one long roll. (Rolls, I think, as I would do the Peach set all as one, the Amber set all as one, etc.) But wouldn't this study be worth it, because then you would really know how those colors work together? When we visited the Jamieson's mill and we saw all of those colors of dyed fleeces and Peter Jamieson showed us a book of Fair Isle swatches, I got so excited about all the colors I couldn't contain myself any more and blurted out about it. Peter and Sandy laughed indulgently at me. Sandy was like, Yeah, call me in 20 years when you have that done.

It's enough to make me want to buy a knitting machine....

Then, on display at the Shetland Museum, was this little number:


It was a salesman's sample swatch showing possible color combinations of yarns that were available decades ago from some mill that is now long defunct. But it made my crazy idea seem just a little more defensible, and I made a point of showing the strip to Sandy. The mill that made up that swatch didn't know about speed swatching, as the color blocks are made up of little peeries.

We ate several meals in the Hay's Dock restaurant, attached to the Shetland Museum. I had been expecting we'd eat things like steak and kidney pie or mutton stew, but the cuisine at Hay's Dock was very light, European, and delightful. For one dinner, I had a fettuncini alfredo with langoustines. Interior of the restaurant:


Each table had an inset panel in the top that showed some textile work -- Fair Isle, or weaving, or what-have-you. Here's a close-up of some Shetland lace:


And we spent some time with Elizabeth (who's last name I've forgotten), a friend-of-a-friend of Sandy's, who works at the Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village. This is one of those living museums, where the people working there dress in traditional garb and enact the activities of the bygone era. Elizabeth had woven the garment you see her wearing. She demonstrates weaving and spinning, and demonstrated these for us, too, while we were visiting with her.



Close-up of the drop spindle she's holding. The whorl is stone and was one of many found in the location.

We left many sights unseen as there just wasn't time to get to everything. I would go back to Shetland in a heartbeat. Everyone we met there was very gracious and helpful to these two out-of-place American women.


Scott is Chairman of the trade association for his industry; the convention this year was held in Charlotte. We went there for a week. Scott worked like a dog, but it was rather more like a vacation for me. I ate well, exercised every day, and, yes, knitted. I signed up for the second year of the Nihon Vogue class (with reservations about it, since I have not yet completed year 1). I limited myself to bringing only one knitting project, the first project from Nihon Vogue year 2, and forced myself to focus on knitting only it.

We had excellent weather and there was a park with a book-theme across from the convention center, so I took my knitting there to work on it.

The entrance to the park was flanked by two statues that were supposed to represent piles of books:


And there were signposts scattered throughout the park that could be read two ways:


(The sign reads: James, Georgia, 180 miles. Baldwin, Florida, 324 miles.)


But really, the event that was the impetus for me to start blogging again* was last night's appearance at University Book Store. Daniel Vosovic, a finalist-designer from Season 2 of Project Runway was there to promote his new book, Fashion Inside Out.

These are photos to treasure next to the photo we got of ourselves with Tim Gunn at U Book Store:



(Left to right: Allegra, Daniel V, Jennie.)

* At least once in these few months since I last blogged in June I have sat down to the computer and opened up my blog admin page, only to end up deleting 200 junk comments. This chore not only takes away my precious time, it puts me in too foul of a mood to blog. While I do have a junk comment filter in place and I do believe many or most of those junk comments were not visible to my readers, I do wonder if there isn't a better way. Suggestions?

Posted by Karen at 07:48 AM | Comments (1)